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Advancing Asian American Communities through Opportunity

For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are recognizing the contributions and cultural influences of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities in California. This year’s theme is “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity.” This May, the DFPI is recognizing community-based organizations that provide culturally and linguistically appropriate financial education and empowerment programs for Asian American and immigrant communities. The DFPI is not just California’s financial regulator, we’re here to support economic mobility for all Californians. Meet two of our community partners serving Asian American and immigrant communities in California. 

The Shalom Center

“Financial literacy empowers individuals to navigate their financial lives with confidence, plan for the future, and avoid common pitfalls like overspending or falling into debt traps. It’s not just about knowing the concepts but also about applying them wisely in real life situations.”

Ji Lee, Executive Director
The Shalom Center for T.R.E.E. of Life – Los Angeles & Orange Counties

The Shalom Center for T.R.E.E. of Life (Shalom Center) is a non-profit, faith-based organization that provides comprehensive housing counseling, training, and advocacy services. It serves its surrounding Korean community, and its services reach out to low- and moderate-income homebuyers and tenants in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

The Shalom Center focuses on homeownership as a key element in cultivating a family’s pride in and commitment to their communities. It promotes long-term housing opportunities by providing families with the skills and confidence necessary to gain control over their own lives and removing barriers for groups with inadequate access to services, such as minority, immigrant, limited English proficiency, disabled, homeless, and elderly populations. 

“The most important aspect of financial literacy is understanding how to effectively manage money,” advises the Shalom Center’s Executive Director Ji Lee. “This encompasses various skills and knowledge, including budgeting, saving, investing, understanding debt, and making informed financial decisions.” He suggests getting started with the following guidelines:

  1. Educate Yourself: Take time to learn about basic financial concepts.
  2. Set Financial Goals: Determine your achievable financial goals for short-term, medium-term, long-term.
  3. Create a Budget: Track your income and expenses to understand where your money is going.
  4. Start Saving Early: Establish the habit of saving money regularly, even if it’s a small amount.
  5. Manage Debt Wisely: Be cautious about debt, and make sure you understand the terms and interest rates associated with any loans or credit cards. Focus on paying off high-interest debts first.
  6. Be Patient and Persistent: Stay committed to improving your financial knowledge and making smart choices with your money.

Visit the Shalom Center’s website to learn more. 

The Cambodian Family

“The most important aspect of financial literacy is that our community feels like they have a good understanding and sense of control over their finances no matter their economic or cultural background or language barriers. There are many cultural and societal taboos regarding money, and it is important that these topics are addressed in a safe and understanding place.”

Vattana Peong, MPH, Executive Director
The Cambodian Family – Santa Ana/Orange County

The Cambodian Family (TCF) is a community-based organization formed in 1980 when Cambodian refugees first settled in America after escaping war and genocide in their homeland. TCF’s mission is to provide opportunities for refugee and immigrant families to develop the knowledge, skills, and desires for creating better health and well-being in their lives. TCF services have expanded to immigrants and refugees from all over the world. TCF staff speak multiple languages, including English, Khmer (Cambodian), Spanish, Cham, and Vietnamese.

TCF’s Executive Director, Vattana Peong, said he is inspired by financial education and empowerment work because he’s eager to address the wealth-building barriers associated with a lack of programs offered to the low-income, limited-English communities in Orange County. “We were constantly asked by our clients for help, especially those who are newly arrived immigrants,” describes Peong. “I took this gap in services as a motivation to help my community.” Through culturally and linguistically tailored classroom workshops, TCF provides financial education and empowerment content aimed to support consumers establish and improve their credit, increase their savings, lower their debt, and improve access to financial services.

“If people are made aware of the options that are available to them in materials that they can understand and in culturally appropriate ways, they will have the courage and knowledge to make better informed decisions regarding their finances. Building confidence is key in financial empowerment,” advises Peong. “Learning about finances can be intimidating but don’t be scared to start and remember to ask questions! It is important to take things one step at a time and learn at your own pace and comfort level.”

Visit The Cambodian Family’s website to learn more.

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Last updated: May 29, 2024 @ 4:26 pm